Menu Paragliding & Equestrian - Disability Info SA

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Paragliding is the recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders. The pilot sits in a harness suspended below a fabric wing comprising a large number of interconnected baffled cells. Wing shape is maintained by the suspension lines, the pressure of air entering vents in the front of the wing, and the aerodynamic forces of the air flowing over the outside.

Despite not using an engine, a paragliders flight can last many hours and cover many hundreds of kilometers, though flights of one to two hours and covering some tens of kilometers are more the norm. By skillful exploitation of sources of lift, the pilot may gain height, often climbing to altitudes of a few thousand meters. Paragliding takes allot of skill and hours of practice, but this does not mean that you can't enjoy the thrill of paragliding even if you have a disability.

Learning to fly

In fact, almost everyone can enjoy paragliding. New technologies and increased attention to the issue during the past ten years mean that people who once thought that paragliding was out of reach are now taking to the skies. People with disabilities can paraglide with a variety of options. If your disability is too severe to do it on your own Tandem paragliding flights are available for the disabled. Deaf people, blind people, those who use wheelchairs, and people with other physical disabilities have all flown with assistance. Tandem paragliding is also the best way to start flying, this is done with an experienced instructor. In fact, this is how all beginners start. Disabled participants aren’t just passive passengers – they get to help steer and direct the flight. With the right program, many students soon end up making solo flights.

Many people who are wheelchair-bound have found that paragliding is the perfect activity for them, because the canopy is controlled entirely by your arms. For those who use a wheelchair because of an injury, or due to conditions like cerebral palsy, this can be a big thrill.

Instructional Tandem Paragliding

For those who just want to experience flying, Instructional Tandem Paragliding or Tandem Paragliding is unlike anything else you have ever experienced. You need not be qualified to take part in this activity. It is fun and easy and anyone can do it! The only limitation is weight. There is no minimum or maximum age, though children under 18 years old will need their parents’ consent. Any person from 20kg – 120kg can fly, including the disabled, no matter your disability.

For people who have lost the use of their legs, paragliding is therapeutic. On the one hand, it’s a great adrenaline fix. On the other, it gives you a sense of freedom that you don’t feel on the ground. The sky is one place where your legs don’t matter!

There are many Paragliding companies out there who cater for the disabled, some vary slightly in the equipment that they use for the disabled, but most should be able to meet your needs. Just contact one of the companies of your choice to organize a flight.

Instructional Tandem paragliding is considered safe but as with all aviation sports there is risk and all passengers are required to sign a disclaimer before they undertake this activity. prior to your flight, you will normally get a briefing which is safety orientated and will ensure a great take off, flight and landing.


In 1997, a group called Flyability in the UK designed a wheelchair for both everyday use and paragliding. To make the chair flyable, a harness is attached and an extra wheel is added in the front. In 2010, paragliding enthusiasts in the US and engineers at the University of Utah also developed a specialized wheelchair just for paragliding. These new wheelchairs had space for an instructor, meaning that wheelchair users could train to be pilots. As a result, people with spinal injuries were soon flying solo.


Equestrian is the sport of Horseback Riding and includes Riding, Driving, Steeplechasing or Vaulting with horses. It is a competitive sport in the Olympics and became a part of the Paralympic Games for the first time in 1996 in Atlanta.

It is open to athletes with any type of Physical or Visual Impairment. Events are mixed and grouped according to their functional profiles.

Athletes can compete in dressage events, a championship test of set movements and a freestyle test to music. There is also a team test that involves three to four members. Riders are judged on their display of horsemanship skills and are permitted to use devices such as dressage crops, connecting rein bars, rubber bands and other aids.


Riders are assigned to five different sport classes. Para-equestrian dressage riding consists of five sport classes called ‘grades’ for athletes with Physical and Visual impairments. Lower grades indicate more severe activity limitations and higher grades include athletes with less severe activity limitations. The Grades for persons with Mobility Impairments include:

Grade Ia - Athletes who have severe impairments affecting all limbs and the trunk, these athletes usually require the use of a wheelchair in daily life.

Grade Ib - These Athletes here have either a severe impairment of the trunk and minimal impairment of the upper limbs or moderate impairment of the trunk, upper and lower limbs. Most athletes in this class use a wheelchair in daily life.

Grade II - Athletes in this class have severe impairments in both lower limbs with minimal or no impairment of the trunk or moderate impairment of the upper and lower limbs and trunk. Some athletes in this class may use a wheelchair in daily life.

Grade III - Athletes in grade III have a severe impairment or deficiency of both upper limbs or a moderate impairment of all four limbs or short stature. Athletes in grade III are able to walk and generally do not require a wheelchair in daily life. Grade III also includes athletes having a visual impairment equivalent to B1 (very low visual acuity and/ or no light perception).

Grade IV - Athletes here have a mild impairment of range of movement or muscle strength or a deficiency of one limb or mild deficiency of two limbs. Grade IV also includes athletes with visual impairment equivalent to B2 (higher visual acuity than visually impaired athletes) competing in the grade III sport class and/ or a visual field of less than five degrees radius.

Athletes with the following impairments are eligible to compete in para-equestrian:

  • Impaired muscle power
  • Athetosis
  • Impaired passive range of movement
  • Hypertonia
  • Limb deficiency
  • Ataxia
  • Leg length difference
  • Short stature
  • Visual impairment

Persons With Mobility Impairments Who Benefit From Horse Riding

Horse Riding provides many benefits and is available in South Africa, as a Sport in Equestrian events, a form of Therapy or just for fun as a Hobby. Horse Riding Therapy and Hippotherapy is available in most Provinces in South Africa and is supplied by companies and organizations such as Tumanako Equine Therapy. Equestrian is also one of the sports that are available for persons with Mobility Impairments at the Paralympics. Persons with varying forms of Mobility Impairments can benefit from Horse Riding, including persons with:

  • Amputations
  • Brain Injuries
  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Cerebrovascular Accident (CVA) / Stroke
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Muscular Dystrophy
  • Spina Bifida
  • Spinal Cord Injury (SCI)

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Equestrian In South Africa

There are a number of Horse riding or Equestrian organizations or clubs available for persons with disabilities in South Africa, including SASCOC, The South African Equestrian Association-SAEA, South African Equestrian Federation and the South African Riding for the Disabled Association (S.A.R.D.A.)

South African Equestrian Federation: The SAEF are the representative body for Equestrian Sport in South Africa registered with SASCOC and the representative for South Africa at the FEI. As the officially registered federation under SASCOC, it is governed by the rules and regulations of the Sports Act as well as the rules and regulations of the FEI.

As the representative for equestrian sport with the regulatory bodies, the SAEF are responsible for:

  • Adherence of the Sports Act, rules and regulations of SASCOC and Discipline Constitutions in the Republic of South Africa by its members.
  • The SAEF are also responsible for supporting members in obtaining Protea Colours. The biggest task currently faced is the support towards Disciplines with funding to enable development of the sport.

South African Riding for the Disabled Association S.A.R.D.A.

South African Riding for the Disabled Association S.A.R.D.A. was established in Cape Town in 1973 by Belinda Sampson and Joy Finlay. At first they started with one horse and a monetary donation, but because the results were so successful, the method of therapeutic riding became popular, with more and more people wanting to try to improve different abilities. Today, there are two centres in Cape Town (in Constantia and Noordhoek) and even branches in Durban, Gauteng, Pietermaritzburg and Port Elizabeth.

SARDA’s aim is to provide the opportunity of therapeutic and recreational horse riding for disabled people so that they might benefit in all aspects of their mental, physical and social lives. teach horse riding to people living with disabilities. Special needs schools from all over Cape Town bring learners on a weekly basis. We also hold classes for children and adults who don't attend these schools.

SARDA is affiliated to the RDA in the United Kingdom and the Federation for Disabled Riding International.
SARDA Cape Town practises its work according to the RDA principles which means teaching people living with disabilities to ride, done by qualified Riding for the Disabled instructors, who may or may not be therapists. Ultimate goal is that the RIDERS are taught to ride independently as possible. The riders benefit physically from the movement of the horse and from many other aspects of riding including psycho-social, self-esteem and competing with peers on equal footing.

SARDA encourages equestrians and therapists to learn about the RDA and Hippotherapy practices. Equine Assisted Therapy (ETASA) offer training in Hippotherapy, while SARDA offers training in the practice of RDA. If you are interested in becoming a teacher in either area of expertise, please see our SARDA Volunteers Page for more information. Alternatively, click on link provided to view the website of ETASA.

SARDA at Sleepy Hollow practises Hippotherapy using Physio, Occupational or Speech Therapists in treating children and adults living with disabilities, using the horse as a treatment modality. The ultimate goal is to achieve therapeutic goals and aims. Hippotherapy literally means “treatment with the help of the horse” from the Greek word, “hippos” meaning horse.

Special needs schools from all over Cape Town bring learners on a weekly basis. We also hold classes for children and adults who don't attend these schools.

The minimum age for our riding lessons is 6 years.

How to join

Anyone can apply to be put onto our waiting list. Once you have downloaded the application form please take your time to fill it in. Then return it to us, our Senior Intructor will assess the form and will inform you if your application was successful.

Once your name has been added to the waiting list you are eligible to be considered for any spot that might become available. Our senior instructor matches the applications to the opening according to age and disability/ability.

For Schools to become part of SARDA's Riding Program please download the School Form once you filled it in please and send it to or fax it to 0866953409. Application form for: South African Riding for the Disabled Cape Town Branch. 


Sports Clubs & Organizations
Silver Level Membership